Iron Silicate / Resource Protection

A Versatile and Sustainable Substitute for Natural Minerals

What is iron silicate?
Iron silicate is produced during copper refining and recycling processes. It is a manufactured mineral comparable to natural minerals from quarries, but without the disadvantage of having to massively intervene in nature.
Aurubis is a leading global provider of non-ferrous metals and one of the largest copper recyclers worldwide. Iron silicate is used in various applications, especially in construction, as a substitute for primary building materials.


There are three basic products depending on the process:

 

What does it consist of?
It mainly consists of iron silicate and silicates of aluminum and calcium. Traces of other non-ferrous metals are reduced to the lowest extent feasible. Trace metals are largely included in the silicate phases, which are therefore characterized by high bounding stability and low leachability.

 

A heavyweight with considerable potential in the circular economy and climate protection

Active climate protection

Per year, iron silicate can save up to

  • 11,400 t CO2 as an aggregate in road construction, by preventing the extraction of gravel in quarries
  • 170,000 t CO2 as a reactive mineral additive in blended cements
  • 116,000 t CO2 as a substitute for cement and crushed stone in concrete

Baseline: Use of 1 million t of gravel, cement, and concrete. Substitution of 100 % gravel, 100 % crushed stone, and 20 % Portland cement by iron  silicate.

Source: Life Cycle Assessment of different substitution scenarios for iron silicate, Quantis, technical report, September 2020 / own calculation, Aurubis


The environmental benefits of using iron silicate compared to natural minerals are confirmed by a Life Cycle Assessment.

The results come to a clear conclusion: The use of iron silicate can significantly reduce CO2 emissions as well as other environmental impacts.

When constructing a larger building, CO2 emissions could be reduced by around 12,000 t if iron silicate is used.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is iron silicate used for?
Its technical properties enable iron silicate it to be deployed in a wide range of applications. Fifty years of practical experience and substantial testing demonstrate that it is safe to use throughout its entire life cycle. Iron silicate is registered in compliance with the EU’s REACH regulation and is available at a consistent quality throughout the year.

 

Area Purpose Special advantages

Hydraulic engineering

Protecting embankments and the
beds of rivers, canals, and harbor basins against tides and waves.
 
  • Thinner stone layers and less excavation work
  • Stability through high dry bulk density, cubic particle shape, and surface texture
Road construction
Used as an anti-frost and gravel-bearing layer as well as an underlay for paving.
  • Very good load-bearing capacity
  • Frost resistance
  • Water permeability
Cement production
Fines and granules used as iron additive in clinker bricks or as reactive mineral additive in blended cements.
  • Ready-to-use source of iron
  • Decreases burning temperature and therefore fuel consumption
Concrete production
Versatile use as a substitute for natural aggregates and Portland cement.
  • Enhances workability in its fresh state, improves mechanical properties, enhances durability
  • Enables special types of concrete, e.g., protecting from radiation, heavyweight concrete, etc.
Abrasives
Granulate used for blast cleaning.
  • Provides a perfect grit for blasting
  • steel, stone, and concrete

In addition to these examples, iron silicate can also be used in asphalt, ceramics, dry mixtures, coal flotation, for soil stabilization, and many other uses.

 

Aurubis’ commitment to innovation for low-carbon construction materials
We are continuously collaborating with EU innovation and research projects to further investigate the potential
offered by iron silicates in new applications and to develop less carbon-intensive construction materials.

Projects

Aim: Development of a new generation of construction
material/concrete with a low carbon footprint. Application
in alkali-activated binders/geopolymers based on
iron silicate.

Funding: Horizon 2020

Partners include: Ghent University, Delft University
of Technology, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology,
ETH Zurich, and 15 industrial partners

 

Aim: Upscaling project to produce full-scale inorganic
polymer building materials from iron silicate, using a
modular and mobile upscaling unit. This would result in a
lower environmental footprint and would make metallurgical
industries an important raw material supplier with
integrated zero-waste processes.

Funding: EIT KIC Raw Materials

Partners include: Katholieke Universiteit Leuven,
University of Athens, Resourcefull, ZAG

 

Aim: European Training Network for the valorization of
industrial process residues in added-value applications,
such as supplementary cementitious materials and inorganic
polymers.

Funding: Horizon 2020 MSCA-ETN

Partners include: Katholieke Universiteit Leuven,
University of Leicester, Universität Bonn,
TU Bergakademie Freiberg

 

Aim: Development of innovative, recyclable inorganic
polymer-based materials, based on slags from
non-ferrous metallurgy.

Funding: SIM ICON MARES

Partners include: Katholieke Universiteit Leuven,
VU Brussel, BRRC, Flamac

 

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